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The Americas ‘09 : MotoPsycho  
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Back in Costa Rica and armed with maps. This should make travel much easier.

I took a red eye and flew in to San Jose early in the morning. Retrieved the bike from the very nice people who looked after it for me. I wanted to give them an extra $20, but they declined it. Great people. Next was another visit to Wild Rider. I figured they would know where I could get my tires swapped. (I brought a set of TKCs with me) Again, they were most helpful and sent me to a place just a few blocks away.

This time around Ill be doing more camping so I brought all the necessary gear with me. The bike is starting to look and feel a bit overloaded. I’m going to need to figure out how to redistribute the weight and/or ship some stuff back.

The next day I hit the road again and was confronted with my first challenge: How to get through San Jose. I of course immediately got on the wrong road and ended up heading in the opposite intended direction. Pretty typical for me. I back tracked and started again. Fortunately I had a detailed map of San Jose with me (now why didn’t I consult this first???) and was able to figure out the perfect route through. An hour later I was out.

I headed toward Limon on the Caribbean side. I’ve been to Limon before and I know it’s a hell hole and my opinion hasn’t changed the second time through. I continued on to Cahuita along the coast. The intent was to find a spot to camp, but it got way to late and had to hotel it. Upon arriving in town, a kid ran up to me and wanted to help me find a hotel. In this town it’s a no brainer for lodging, so I think I knew what he was really after. And sure enough, right after I pull up to hotel reception, I got the pitch: “What do you need: Mota, cocaine, shrooms, pills? Let me know Ill get it.” Damn, what do I look like? I just got here. Told him I just need some cold beer. “You have to go to the bar to get that.” Ok, sounds good.

Few beers later, it was time for some grub. I went to a restaurant that had a balcony area overlooking the street below. Im chowing down when suddenly there’s a gun shot in the street in front. The waitresses all run behind the bar for cover, while the rest of us gringos immediately head for the railing to see what’s going on. Let if be noted that self preservation is not necessarily on the top of list for gringos. The street is swarming with cops all racing every which way. Wonder what this was all about?

Later on I head back toward my hotel when a couple of guys who were hanging out in front of my hotel (they had been sitting there since I first arrived) asked me about my friend, the earlier kid who tried to sell me some junk. I told them I had no idea, and than asked them about the gun shot earlier. They started laughing. Turns out the kid was wanted by the police. The police were in hot pursuit and fired a shot at him. He was ok though. He disappeared in the jungle and got away. I guess this is a common occurrence.

I ended up hanging with the guys across the street for awhile. I learned that Cahuita is a hub for cocaine traffic heading north. These guys were seriously considering getting involved because the money is so good. But they would play it safe and just transport a kilo at a time. They figured you only hear about large busts on television where 500 kilos are seized. My take was that the consequences out weighed the gains. Nevertheless they wanted me to take notes on what gets searched at the Panama border and get back to them. I don’t think so.

Flashing the bird wasn’t my idea, but it is the ADVrider salute so what the hell.

Good to be back on the road.

H


I’ve been to Costa Rica before, and have already seen a large part of the country so I figured now would be a good time to do some bike maintenance. I prefer to do my own maintenance, but have found that is usually easier said than done. Its usually a two day process.

First you need to find all the necessary fluids. That can be very difficult. I rode all over San Jose looking for motor oil, gear oil, and tranny fluid. In then end, all I could find was the motor oil. Luckily I have spare gear oil with me so Ill use that. The tranny will have to wait.

FYI: I went to San Jose BMW figuring they would have everything. Wrong. They were some of the most clueless people I have ever come across. They didn’t even know if the oil they were using was dino or synthetic. This place was recommended by Horizons Unlimited. I cant understand that. Stay clear of this place. It is very bad.

Second you need to find a location. Everyone I asked immediately suggested I just dump the used oil on some jungle road. That’s what everybody in Central America does. Sorry, I just can’t do that. Fortunately, an inmate suggested “Wild Riders” in San Jose, and they let me use their shop. No charge. Great bunch of people. Told me to come in the next day, and I could stay as long as I needed.
Even offered to let me use their tools if I wanted.

Long story short. Ruby now has new motor oil and the final drive fluid replaced. The final drive fluid looked a bit cloudy, but seemed to be void of any metal particles. All seems to be fine. Ill continue to change the final drive fluid on every oil change just so I can keep an eye on it.

This is where my trip takes a one week hiatus. I need to return to LA to handle some business and modify my kit for South America. I knew that I would need to return at some point. Now seems like an ideal time.

Thanks for tuning in. To be continued in a week or so ……

H


The day started out pleasant enough. The ride through Nicaragua was very nice and I stopped a bunch of times to take the photo.

Once you get out of the cities the beaches become nice again.

I stopped for some drink when I ran in to Igor from Czechoslovakia. This guy has been on the road for 3 years and has visited more than a 100 countries. His bike redefined the term overloaded. Really cool guy.

I’ve been pretty lucky with border crossings, and it was just a matter of time before that would all change.

Crossing from Nicaragua to Costa Rica was an absolute nightmare. I arrived at the border at the same time as Igor so we got to experience it together. On the Nicaraguan side, you are immediately hounded by helpers all flashing their “credentials” One of them kept saying “Do you remember me? I remember you, my good friend. I will help you.” I just gave him a blank look, but that didn’t stop him. He hung out with me the entire time trying to convince me that we knew each other. These helpers weren’t as pleasant as the ones from the Honduras-Nicaraguan border. You really just had to ignore them.

I believe I had to go to 4 different buildings on the Nicaraguan side. Each giving me another slip of paper. It seemed endless. The police had to do something, and they went to lunch. Then suddenly they were back and they would stamp another random paper. Each building wanted money for something. I was helped by someone who really at first appeared to work there. He was very matter of fact about what he was doing, and guided Igor and me to all the right windows. It wasn’t until the very end, that I realized that he must be a helper. Unfortunately, the Nicaraguans took all my money and all I had to give him was a buck. Igor only had a buck left as well. We sort of screwed him. Feel bad about that.

Next was the Costa Rica side. No helpers here, but what needed to be done seemed pretty straightforward. Only the police made it a pain. One officer would say, you need to go over to that shack and get the stamp, than get in that line. So you would go to the shack just to be told, no you need to go and get in that line first. So now you go back, just to collide with the officer before. Tempers flared and yelling started. Finally I said, you come with me and straighten this out with your partner, because Im not going to ping pong all day here. Finally we got put in a third line and waited. Than we were told we shouldn’t be in this line, but actually the line up front. So again you collide with an officer who tells you something different… anyway you get the point. This went on the entire time we were there. Horrified!

After countless forms, insurance papers, and photocopies we made it through. Now we had to find a bus and give the people inside all our acquired documents. The last customs building burned down so they moved the operation in to a bus. (Probably by a pissed off tourist.) Rode around for a bit until I found the damn bus parked behind the semi truck parking lot where it was next to impossible to see. With that done, I was in. Took roughly 2-3 hours. It was payback for all those earlier easy crossings for sure.

The weather was turning to shit so I decided to just make a run to San Jose. On route, I met Victor and Debbie from Canada (lots of Canadians) and we started riding together. Soon we ran in to Igor and he joined us too.

What followed was insane. Traffic started to thicken and it started to pour as we got closer to San Jose. We rode like maniacs with almost no visibility. Passing on the left, the right, on turns, we did anything to keep moving through endless backed up traffic. I was thinking to myself: “This is nuts. Your days are numbered riding like this.”

Don’t really shoot video on my little camera, but here’s a little clip at a toll both:

H


Granada is a tourist town. It has a few streets that are manicured to perfection with restaurants catering to any tourist’s whim. A lot of American style places like burger joints and roadside cafes.

I didn’t want to stay near the city center so I continued on. I was more interested in checking out the lake as well.

Plus a storm was on its way in.

Found a small cheap deserted hotel right across from the lake. Actually it wasn’t completely deserted. There was a fun couple from Canada there who loved to partake in certain Moroccan goods. We had the run of the whole place. Needless to say, the beer started to flow. Good times.

The next morning, I decided to check out the park next to the lake. It had a 50 cent entrance fee so I figured it must be nice.

These kids threatened me with their machete and pick axe if I didn’t pay. Just kidding. They were harmless.

Another beautiful beach in central America.

Not sure if Id take the slide in to this pool.

The park was huge and completely deserted. I think at one time this must have been a very popular place. There were many closed restaurants and abandoned play grounds. Perhaps the money dried up to maintain the place. Not sure.

Found this kid later on in the day. I was having dinner with the Canadians the night before when I first came across him. He was begging for money, but he simply reeked of glue. I guess huffing is pretty common in these parts. Glue, gasoline, paint thinner, whatever they can get their hands on. Sad to see a kid like this so young and so messed up. Have to wonder about his parents. What do you do in this situation?

That night I caught the security guard snoozing.

There was a tour to a monkey island that was suppose to be pretty cool. You could spend the night there as well. The Canadians wanted me to join them, but I decided to pass. I needed a day to catch up on some business work. It sucks to have to work on the road, but how else would I pay for this trip? No doubt, it’s a necessary evil.

H


Got up this morning prepped to tackle the Honduras-Nicaraguan border. I have no Honduran entry stamp. No bike import certificate. And the many horror stories of travelers who have gone before me fresh on my mind. This is going to be interesting.

First a check point. They wanted to see my documents that I did not have. I showed them my El Salvador papers and they were happy with that. They let me take their picture. This is a first.

The border had huge lines of trucks parked on the side of the road. Is the border closed to trucks? I rode to the head of the line and was instantly surrounded by helpers. I joked with them for awhile, a bit sarcastically: “Me need help? Its a border crossing. How hard can this be?” Still uncommitted, I walked up to the immigration window with a group of prospective helpers in tow.

There was no queue so I spoke with customs right away. Without the Honduran stamps and papers, Honduran customs did not know what to make of it. I took out my map and showed them my entry point near Perquin, and told them what immigration said to me at that border about being a touristo in transit. The man in charge just started shaking his head at me. “Hey, don’t look at me, you guys are the professionals. I figure you know what you’re doing.” Two seconds later, I was told to go ahead. Case dismissed.

At this point, I decided to use the helper I was joking with the most and helped argue my case to the Hondurans. Next stop, the Nicaraguan side. I rode my motorcycle the short distance with helpers chasing behind. The situation seemed comical to me. Immigration had 3 windows. First motorcycle import. Second Honduran exit. Third Nicaraguan entry. Documents were easy. Paid $7.50 to exit Honduras, and the same to enter Nicaragua. No photocopies. No queues. I even got my insurance at the same time. The whole process took no more than 30 minutes. After that I gave my helper and the countless kids keeping a close eye on my bike making absolute sure that it was safe, the rest of my Honduran money. Roughly 10 bucks.

My helper (middle) and the insurance guy:

This was by far the funnest and easiest border crossing to date. Granted, it could have been a nightmare not having the right documents. I believe that all the horror stories we all read about are due to the border location. Everyone is on the Pan-Am where the vast majority of the interstate traffic is. It’s a given that these borders would be hell just because of the volume of people they have to deal with.

So here’s the alternative Honduran route: Get off the Pan-Am at San Miguel, El Salvador and go to Perquin. Cross in to Honduras and visit. Exit Honduras in to Nicaragua at the Los Manos border. Easy and fun!

After the border, I continued on to Granada.

Always something burning:

Trips always start out with the best intentions travel wise. You make a set of rules of what you should and should not do in certain countries. Yet, you break all of them. 1) Do not ride at night, but you end up doing just that. 2) Don’t bust out expensive cameras, they make you a target. Screw that. Gotta take the photo. 3) Obey the traffic rules. Nonsense the road belongs to you, speed, pass, do whatever you want. Laws are for locals.

Today I got hit by rule 3. Speed trap caught me going three times the speed limit. (Note that the posted speed limit was BS. There was no reason to have a 25kph zone on a long deserted straightaway) Had to pay a $40 bribe to Nicaraguan policeman. He wanted $60 at first, but was able to talk him down a bit. Probably could have gotten it lower.

H

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